Tour de France News Extra for July 11, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
Wusty TV tunes
By Tim Maloney, European editor
Photo: © Tim Maloney
Marcel Wust was one of Germany's top sprinters until a crash in 2000
cost him an eye and his cycling career. Wust is an old friend of Cyclingnews
and was one of the very first columnists for us, starting in 1998, so
it was a pleasure to bump into him in the village depart before stage
"I'm here at the Tour de France as an expert commentator for ARD, the
German TV network that televises the French race in Germany," said
Wust. "I'm not the co-commentator; I'm the guy who's there with the
presenter talking about all the things that are happening, or could happen
or why things are happening. Basically for me it's something that's good
to do. After all, cycling is my sport and my inside knowledge. I try to
transfer this into the living rooms of the viewers to give them more background.
I think the more you understand in cycling, the more exciting it is."
We asked Wust if he's spoken to Jan Ullrich since the Tour started and
he told us, "Actually I haven't talked to him since the Tour started.
In our German TV team, we have almost 100 people and some of our guys
have had a few interviews with him. Let's see how the Tour is going to
go on, but in my expert opinion, when you ask me 'how is Ullrich' and
'what does he need to do to win', well my opinion is that Ullrich has
to improve a lot to beat the man from Texas. Basically, Ullrich is in
very good form, he's very skinny, he has a good team but in the TTT, we
saw that Lance has a better team. We saw that Ullrich won the Tour of
Switzerland, but when he won it, he was racing against five guys while
at the Tour, there are thirty guys. If two weeks before the Tour you are
getting dropped by riders like Totschnig and Jeker, you have to have some
doubts that you can drop (Lance). But Ullrich tells us he's done everything
to be in shape when the Tour really starts in the Pyrenees and the Alps.
Maybe he is, but if he isn't, it's up to us to ask him some questions."
Without Vinokourov, Wust says, "T-Mobile is not as strong, especially
in the TTT. Ullrich lost his strongest support rider and the tactics that
Ullrich and Vinokourov could double-attack Lance. Now it's all on [Ullrich].
The loss of Vinokourov is probably the biggest shame for this year's Tour.
So T-Mobile can't really do this double attack. It was exciting last year
when they were racing against each other! But shit happens in life and
that's a fair dinkum Australian saying, so shit happened to Vinokourov
and that's life for T-Mobile at the Tour."
Pascal Lino: voice of experience
Photo: © Tim Maloney
Pascal Lino was Maillot Jaune at the Tour de France for one day back
in 1992 and was one of the most experienced French riders of his generation.
Today, Lino drives assistant race director Laurent Bezault and has one
of the best seats in the house to watch the Tour action.
Lino shared a few observations with Cyclingnews this morning in
the Village Depart, explaining, "I'm very happy and proud to see Voeckler
in the Maillot Jaune. It's always good for French cycling when a Frenchman,
especially the French champion is in the lead. Perhaps Voeckler can keep
the maillot jaune until the Pyrenees, as he won a stage at the Route du
Sud that finishes at Plateau de Beille. I think the Tour organization
is really happy for Voeckler and for the way Armstrong gave up the maillot
jaune and a French rider got it. Generally this Tour seems to be going
Armstrong wants earlier TT
Lance Armstrong thinks one cause of the crashes that have plagued this
year's Tour is the lack of a time trial in the first week, with its steadying
effect on the race hierarchy. "I think the race needs a time trial in
the first week because the race is too nervous without it," Armstrong
told the Reuters news agency after stage 7.
"It's safer for the event to establish some order in the group. We're
still another week from figuring out who the hell is going to be at the
front," he said.
Armstrong explained that just about every team was trying to keep its
keep riders at the front and out of trouble, which had the reverse effect
of causing the very problems they were trying to avoid. "There are guys
here who think they can win and so their teams and their directors put
a lot of pressure on them to stay out of trouble and stay up front," he
"It gets tough when you have nine Euskaltels, nine Phonaks, nine Postals,
a bunch of CSCs and then the team that is leading the race as well. The
road is only so wide."
The weather and the long stages had been hard too, making crashes more
likely as riders tire. "Every day has been about 200km and that starts
to grind on the guys. You could see that the peloton was tired at the
end when we started to roll hard in the last 10 kilometres."
Brandt claims lab error
Lotto-Domo rider Christophe Brandt, sent home before yesterday's stage
after testing positive for methadone, says he suspects a lab error is
responsible. "I've had a dozen tests this year and they were all negative,"
he said on Belgium's RTBF television. "There are two possible explanations.
Either it's a handling error at the laboratory ... or, well, we'll have
to dig a little deeper and we'll do that after the follow-up test," he
"All products that contain methadone are clearly labelled, so if I'd
seen that I would never have taken it," he said.
Brandt insisted he had always raced clean. "I have always tried to do
my job properly," he said, "now I want to prove that I did not [take methadone]
because I did not do it. I want to get back on the bike, because this
is my life."
Brandt's team-mate Rik Verbrugghe expressed surprise at the positive
test. "No one understands the situation," he said. "This is not a product
that improves performance."
One of Lotto-Domo's directeurs sportif, Hendrik Redant, said, "This is
very serious. We are all very surprised, especially with that product.
Christophe has never had a doping problem. We now will wait for the counter-test."
Brandt returned a positive A sample test for methadone from a control
on Monday July 5.
Voeckler hangs in there
Young Thomas Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangere) is enjoying his sojourn
in yellow and is determined to hang on to the leader's jersey for as long
as possible. And why not? While there's almost no chance Voeckler can
hang on to the jersey when the race hits the mountains, in the meantime
a French rider on a French team wearing the leader jersey in France's
greatest sporting event is an instant hero in France. While the Tour may
be the three weeks a year when the whole world pays attention to bike
racing, at its heart it's still a quintessentially French event as evidenced
by the preferential treatment given to French teams who are invited to
the race over higher-quality teams from outside the host nation.
The 24-year-old has another incentive too: Voeckler's Brioches la Boulangere
team does not have a sponsor for 2005 yet, and there's no better publicity
than standing on the top of the podium every day in the Tour de France.
Nevertheless, stage 7 tested the determination of Voeckler and the baker
boys. "The stage went off quickly and when the two-man attack went we
were quite happy because none of the guys were contenders in the general
classification," he told AFP.
"But with around 50km to go when we approached the coast it started to
get a lot harder. We knew already that CSC might try the same stunt they
had tried in Paris-Nice.
"But the Boulangere team worked well today. I'm very happy with the guys.
We're trying to conserve as much energy as possible and we'll be trying
to hold on to the jersey for as long as possible."
Simoni struggles but won't give up
Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) hasn't been having a great Tour de France by
any standards. The victim of a crash near the end of the team time trial
that caused him to be penalized 1:12 more than his team-mates, and also
involved in the final kilometer crash on stage 6, the 2003 Giro winner
has been struggling with battered morale and injuries.
In yesterday's seventh stage, Simoni was one of the many riders dropped
by the fast start and almost abandoned, hanging on to his team car and
complaining that his head was spinning, and he felt terrible. Radio Tour
reported at one point that he had in fact called it a day.
However, with a pep talk from team manager Giuseppe Martinelli and the
assistance of his team, Simoni got back to the peloton and afterward told
AFP, "Now, I'm feeling okay. I'm hoping to continue but I'm really looking
forward to Monday's rest day. Hopefully after that it will be a new start
for me, and an altogether different race.
"I can't give up. I've done a lot of work this year, and put in a lot
of hours preparing for the Tour."
Over 100 riders have crashed so far in this year's Tour as the combination
of greasy roads, poor-to-abysmal weather and nervousness has meant a race
with more than its fair share of crashes. Italian sprinters Alessandro
Petacchi and Mario Cipollini have been the highest-profile casualties,
both dropping out before stage 6 because of their injuries.
Simoni too is feeling battered. "I'm still sore everywhere, my back and
my knee," he said. "My condition was good but then the crash [Friday]
and the team time trial ruling just made me puke. I couldn't understand
it. Today I was hoping that the stage wouldn't start too fast. Hopefully,
I can refind my morale along the way."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)